By Leo Paciga ( @FFHoudini )
Last article we spent some time taking a closer look at the NFC West. Today we’re going to focus on the NFC South and see just what opportunities the off season could present for dynasty owners.
Let’s get started with the main course, the NFC South……
New Orleans Saints
The Guy to Buy
Joseph Morgan, WR - The whispers about Joseph Morgan are starting to swirl around dynasty message boards and fantasy football sites. While some shrewd owners may already have Morgan rostered, other folks are starting to drink the Morgan “Kool-Aid” – a splendid concoction of potential opportunity, blazing speed and a unique ability to get deep on defenders seemingly at will. Ok, maybe I’ve been sipping some of the Morgan hype too…..I mean, we are talking about an undrafted WR in 2011 who spent his entire rookie season on I.R. This same WR managed only 10 receptions during the 2012 season, seeing only 21 targets and never catching more than 2 passes in any given game. So why the fuss? Let’s start with his yards per catch average for those measly 10 receptions; a jaw dropping 37.9 yards per catch. Morgan has that deceptive long speed essential for beating defenses over the top and he tracks the ball very well while maintaining that high end speed. He also has a good “wiggle” to set up the double move and a decent amount of elusiveness in the open field. Devery Henderson, a free agent for 2013, has most likely played his last game with the Saints and that means Morgan will be given every chance to become the staple deep threat in the Saints passing game. With master strategist HC Sean Payton returning to the sidelines, a pass happy offensive system and a full training camp for Brees and Morgan to establish chemistry, the upside potential for Morgan is very real and some owners have yet to catch on. As we get further into the off season and OTAs start up in late May, the Morgan buzz will get louder and his value will increase. My advice is to look to acquire Morgan now at a low price and smile as the hype gets louder.
The Guy to Stash
Chris Ivory, RB - The big question here is will the Saints let this restricted free agent move on to another team in 2013. Ivory has battled some injuries in the past, but this 25 year old RB has looked good every time he’s gotten the chance to pound the rock. Ivory has averaged 5.1 yards a carry during his career and in games with at least 10 carries (13 games over 3 years) that number increases slightly to 5.23 yards per carry. Ivory is strong runner, but still demonstrates a nice burst for a 222 lb. RB with decent lateral agility. Ivory also does a nice job of lowering his pad level before contact and finishes each run with bulldozing determination. A big part of building a dynasty squad is identifying the next productive player “before” it becomes obvious to your fellow owners and the price to acquire that production jumps dramatically. A few nagging injuries, a crowded Saints’ backfield and a somewhat odd RB rotation have all contributed to keeping Ivory’s dynasty value fairly low. If he’s available on your waiver wire or his current owner doesn’t see the potential upside Ivory represents, now is the time to add him to your dynasty squad as a nice roster stash.
The Intriguing Old Guy
Marques Colston, WR - Consistent, reliable, high floor and target friendly….these are all terms used to describe Marques Colston even though he has a tendency to produce stats in bunches. His recent resume includes 4 straight seasons with at least 106 targets and 70 receptions. In fact, Colston has averaged 118 targets, 79 receptions, 1098 yards and 8.5 TDs over the past 4 seasons (2009 – 2012). Personally I’ve never owned Colston on any of my dynasty teams and I’ve always been fairly skeptical of his production. When I watch Colston, I see an aging WR that lacks both long and short speed, a WR that lacks quickness getting off the line and a WR that’s missing any type of explosion while cutting or running through breaks. Colston has also dealt with some health issues, having rehabbed through two micro-fracture surgeries – one to his left knee in 2009 and another to his right knee in 2011 and yet he has been surprisingly durable during the last 4 seasons. Colston knows how to do a few things very well, he uses his imposing frame/size to create good space and he is extremely savvy when it comes to setting up his routes. Even though he turns 30 this summer, Colston plays catch on Sundays with an elite QB and produces solid WR #2 numbers in an offensive system that is both explosive and efficient. The most important issue in this discussion is that Colston’s price in dynasty circles is dropping faster than his production on the field – and for the first time I’m actually considering buying Colston. If I have a dynasty squad ready for a title run and I need WR depth or a solid option to round out my starting lineup, Colston’s price versus production ratio is finally in my wheel house. I’ve never been a fan of Colston’s, but I am a huge fan of value…..sooooooo “Hello Marques, nice to meet you”.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Guy to Buy
Mike Williams, WR - Let’s face it….Mike Williams had a disappointing 2011 season and fantasy football owners everywhere were comparing Mike Williams to former Buccaneer “one year wonder” Michael Clayton. Folks thought that Williams’ impressive rookie year in 2010 had been a fluke and that the addition of Vincent Jackson last off season would most likely cause further regression for the former Syracuse WR heading into 2012. The interesting thing is that 2011 really wasn’t that bad in the first place. The main issue for Williams was that his TD receptions dropped from 11 his rookie season to a unimpressive total of 3 in 2011. His targets remained consistent (128 in 2010 and 125 in 2011), his reception totals were similar and his yards per catch dropped by 4 yards a catch. Fast forward to 2012 and once again Mike Williams remained extremely consistent on an offense that epitomized sporadic production. Vincent Jackson’s arrival helped draw defensive attention and the opposition’s top coverage CBs and Williams was able to operate with more freedom. Williams’ detractors will point to the few games in which he seemingly disappeared, but I’ll argue that as a fantasy WR #3, there are few WRs out there that see as many targets and produce as consistently as Mike Williams. Through 3 seasons, Williams has averaged 126 targets, 64 receptions, 910 yards and 7.6 TDs per year and he has the speed, hands and ball tracking ability to continue to produce at a very consistent level. I’m not suggesting that fantasy owners break the bank to acquire Williams, but if you’re looking for a WR # 3 to strengthen your depth and round out your roster, this Buccaneer WR is an undervalued, under appreciated option that offers solid upside.
The Guy to Stash
LeGarrette Blount, RB – Yes, everyone loves RB Doug Martin as the new dynamic RB in Tampa Bay. Yes, Doug Martin’s jaw dropping 251 yard, 4 TD performance against the Raiders in week 9 left us all shocked and awed. And yes, LeGarette Blount faded away as the year progressed, making us wonder if we had simply imagined a 240 lb. Buccaneer running back hurdling defenders back in the 2011 season. Blount heads into this off season as a restricted free agent and it’s doubtful the Buccaneers will stop him from hitting the open market – so that means a potential new start for this bruising RB. Blount runs like a freight train, but he occasionally loses power because he gets “too tall” with his pad level as he hits the line. He also leaves yardage on the field because he doesn’t have the best football vision and he doesn’t anticipate his blocks as well as he could. Blount may have his shortcomings, but overall, he is strong, difficult to tackle, runs “light” on his feet and has deceptive speed for a RB his size. Between 2010 and 2011 Blount had 14 games with more than 70 rushing yards and in 7 of those games he broke the century mark. Fantasy football owners often have a “what have you done for me lately” mentality and are quick to move onto the next shiny new toy, leaving behind potential upside. Blount has already built a decent NFL resume and his value has pretty much hit rock bottom after a disappointing 2012. I believe Blount has the potential to revive his career in a new setting and become the “thunder” part of a thunder/lightning RBBC and most importantly…he’s a dirt cheap roster stash.
The Guy to Buy
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, ATL - Let me state this upfront – I haven’t been a huge believer in Rodgers as an every down back. He always looks good enough running the ball to wet your appetite, but he’s always on the fringe of being fantasy football relevant with limited carries and a mundane 3.7 yards per carry average for his 2 year career. Could 2013 be different for Rodgers as he enters his 3rd NFL season? Well, for starters Michael Turner has probably played his last game for the Falcons and that should mean more opportunities for Rodgers. I also saw some signs from Rodgers at the end of the 2012 season that made me take notice and reconsider my position on his fantasy football relevance. Rodgers has always been quick and elusive, but as the season wore on he showed some tough inside running – especially against Seattle in the NFC Divisional Playoff game. He displayed patience allowing his linemen to set their blocks and he also showed very little hesitation once the holes opened. Rodgers also ran with determination and a physical presence that was often missing earlier in the season….and more importantly, he looked very comfortable with this physical style, using his low center of gravity and pad level to push through defenders. Rodgers also improved dramatically in his pass protection in 2012. Coming out of college, pass protection was an area of concern for Rodgers, but it is no longer a weakness in his overall game. Rodgers also catches the ball extremely well pulling in 53 of his 59 targets in 2012. The Falcons could certainly draft another RB this April (or bring in a free agent) and that could muddy the waters again in Atlanta, but I’ve seen enough from Rodgers to suddenly become interested. Rodgers is a polarizing player and there are a few owners out there who still believe (as I did) that Rodgers is simply a 3rd down back with limited upside. Knock on a few doors and see what the asking price is for Rodgers, maybe you’ll get lucky and find someone who wants to sell at a reasonable price.
Some Random Thoughts on other Falcons
I’m buying Tony Gonzalez if I need some TE depth on a championship caliber dynasty team. I think the playoff victory against Seattle gave Gonzalez a taste of things to come in 2013 and the Falcons will convince him to play one more season. If he does return, he’ll produce at a very high level once again in 2013. I’d use the talks about retirement to see just how cheaply he can be acquired.
Roddy White is a fantasy football enigma when it comes to value. He’s getting older (he’ll be 32 this November), but he’s still productive. White still saw a ton of targets in 2012, but he plays opposite a young target monster in Julio Jones with unlimited upside. His current owners overvalue him and potential buyers undervalue his overall worth. I doubt many Roddy White deals get done this off season.
The Guy to Buy
Jonathan Stewart, RB - I love Jonathan Stewart’s ability, but like so many dynasty owners I’ve become numb to the backfield situation in Carolina and his underwhelming performances on the field the last few seasons. Since 2010, Stewart has played in 39 games and has broken the 100 yard mark in just two of those games. Wait, it gets even worse……in the past 2 years Stewart has played in 25 games and he has broken the 75 yard plateau in only 3 of those games with a high yardage mark of 88 rushing yards back in week 16 of 2011. Stewart’s TD totals have also dropped with the “vulturing” Mike Tolbert joining the Panthers before the 2012 season and with QB Cam Newton setting his sights on the end zone and a Superman impersonation every time the team enters the red-zone. Stewart started his NFL career with back to back 10 TD seasons; unfortunately he’s only found the end zone 7 times in the last 3 seasons. But, even with the negative numbers and disappointing performances, I still find myself believing in Jonathan Stewart. He has such a rare combination of size, strength, vision, agility and balance and that combination is extremely evident whenever he is healthy and he is allowed to find some rhythm within the offensive rotation. Maybe we’re looking at the “Lee Evans syndrome” all over again, a gifted player that simply underachieves year after year to the sound of never ending excuses from fantasy football geniuses everywhere. Maybe one day I’ll wake up and admit that Stewart’s career was defined by unfiltered hype and unmatched disappointment. But for now, I’m still buying and I’m hoping the recent news that Carolina wants to bring back DeAngelo Williams for the 2013 season has a few Stewart owners curled up in the fetal position. Hopefully they’ll still be checking their in-boxes for trade offers.
Well, that’ll do it for the NFC South breakdown. You may or may not agree with my analysis on the players mentioned above, but hopefully you’ve at least enjoyed the article. I encourage everyone out there to take the time to research players, watch some film and continue to actively improve your dynasty rosters. The tools and opinions provided here at DFW can certainly help take your teams to the next level.